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17 Simple Tips For Eating Healthier Without Changing Your Whole Damn Life

In case saying goodbye to a bunch of food groups all at once sounds sad and unsustainable.

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The Whole30 program is an elimination diet that calls for avoiding grains, legumes, dairy, added sugar, and alcohol for 30 days.

It also bans MSG, sulfites, and carrageenan, additives commonly found in processed foods. Participants are also discouraged from trying to re-create baked foods using Whole30-approved ingredients (so, like, no Paleo muffins, for example). And they're also told not to weigh themselves for the duration of the diet. The idea is to "focus on making good food choices" for a month.

The thing is, eliminating several food groups from your diet can be pretty daunting, even for just a month. And as BuzzFeed Health has reported, following restrictive diets can actually lead to bingeing down the road. (Not to mention that it can take a toll on your social life and enjoyment of food.)

So we reached out to health and nutrition experts to ask them how to make impactful changes to your diet in a sustainable way, so you can practice a healthier, non-elimination-based approach to eating. Here's what they said!

1. For one meal a day, make your plate 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 whole grains.

@thewholehappylife / Via instagram.com

Choose one meal per day that you want to improve and do that consistently for a month. Then add on a second meal, then a third, etc. As dietitians we know that simple, small steps are much more effective when it comes to eating healthier, not complete diet overhauls.

If you need a visual, here you go. This sounds simple, but we promise our patients who follow this eating pattern have the most success when it comes to achieving their health goals. Ideally, you'd want to do this for at least lunch and dinner. But there's no shame in starting small.

—Jessica Jones, MS, RD, CDE, and Wendy Lopez, MS, RD, co-founders of Food Heaven Made Easy and co-authors of the 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot

2. Instead of subtracting from your diet, add to it.

@ashandnug / Via instagram.com

For example, add an afternoon snack so you don't get overly hungry and eat the entire kitchen when you get home. Or, if you love pizza, enjoy it, but add in some veggies (like a side salad) to get in extra nutrients and filling volume. Or if you're a huge pasta fan, add protein (beans or meat/fish/tofu) and lots of veggies to the dish — you'll be much more satisfied than you would be by a huge bowl of just pasta and sauce.

Try my Healthy Tuna Noodle Casserole for an example of this in action!

Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, dietitian blogger at fANNEtasticfood.com and co-author of the Joyful Eating, Nourished Life program

3. Swap out some processed grains for some whole grains.

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Rather than giving up grains completely as Whole30 requires, swap out some of the processed grains (things like bread, pasta, traditional cold cereals, crackers, etc.) in your diet for intact grains. Intact grains are grains in their purest form, like quinoa, bulgur, farro, millet, freekeh, amaranth, oats, and so on — grains you have to cook yourself.

These are high in naturally occurring nutrients, and take more energy to digest — which means the net calories from a serving of intact grains may be lower than calories obtained from a similar portion of processed grains. Making this substitution is one more step toward a real, whole foods diet.

—Amelia Winslow, MS, MPH, nutritionist and founder of Eating Made Easy

4. Eat more legumes (e.g., lentils, split peas, black beans, pinto beans, soybeans, etc.).

@ericaeats96 / Via instagram.com

The average American only eats seven pounds of them per year. Legumes are a triple-win:

• They are tasty and satisfying.

• Consuming them is linked to a decreased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

• They are environmentally friendly.

—Ryan Andrews, RD, coach at Precision Nutrition

5. Start your day with a green smoothie.

@sproutedroutes / Via instagram.com

It's a triple whammy: You swap out what's often an unhealthy, simple-carb-filled breakfast, you create a healthy habit that's easy to stick to (smoothies take five minutes to make!), and you get more vegetables before 9 a.m. than most people get all day.

There are a few keys to making your smoothie breakfast-worthy — you'll want to include a healthy fat, like avocado, and some type of protein, like hempseeds. I love this chocolate mint green smoothie (it tastes just like a milkshake!), and this mango turmeric one is perfect for summertime.

—Liz Moody, healthy food blogger at Sprouted Routes

6. Stop not treating yourself.

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Health and nutrition is amazing and all, but a narrow and rigid focus on physical health can lead to feelings of isolation by sacrificing our social lives and emotional health.

Health and healthy eating are all about balance — healthy nutritious food and some of the treats you love. The trick is finding a balance that works best for you and your lifestyle: Let yourself have the slice of cake, the happy hour cocktail, the mac and cheese. Just make sure that your overall diet is healthy and mostly based on healthy whole foods and vegetables.

—Ben Sit, RD, president of Evolved Sport and Nutrition

7. Eat more fat. And say goodbye to low-fat and fat-free products.

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Perhaps it sounds counterintuitive, but fat is wonderful for your health and any weight loss efforts. Your cells need fat in order to function properly. Your nervous system needs fat in order to communicate. Certain vitamins are only absorbed in the presence of fat. Plus, it keeps you full AND it tastes great. Lots of winning.

Remember, when food manufacturers take out the naturally occurring fat, they put in additives (read: crap) to make food palatable. Peanut butter, yogurts, salad dressings, ice cream: Go full fat or go home.

PS: 2% yogurt is reduced-fat yogurt.

Rob Sulaver, founder and CEO of Bandana Training and founding trainer of Rumble Boxing

8. Add one piece of fruit and one vegetable to each meal.

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You don't have to change anything about what you're already eating, just add a fruit and a vegetable along with your breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

That could be as easy as sauteed spinach with breakfast and blueberries on the side, steamed broccoli and an apple with lunch, and sauteed green beans with dinner, using fruit as an after-dinner treat! That way even if your meals are not the healthiest, you're guaranteeing your body vital nutrients through the fruits and veggies you add in.

—Anjali Shah, board-certified health coach and founder of The Picky Eater

9. Learn how to make vegetables taste a lot better.

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All "health-conscious diets" agree on one thing: You should eat your veg​gies.​ Many health and nutrition experts recommend at least five servings a day. However, for those who don't like vegetables, this can be a challenge. That's where learning how to complement and cushion veggies comes in.

Complementing is pairing a food or aromatic (spices like ginger, cumin; sour like lime juice, wine; or salty like mustard, olives) with veggies to push several taste buttons at the same time.

Cushioning is pairing veggies with certain flavors — honey or berries for a sweet flavor, olive oil or bacon for a delicious fat flavor —  to turn vegetables' bitter notes down and have you actually craving them.

For a visual guide on how to do this, check out this article.

—John Berardi, PhD, author of Intermittent Fasting and co-founder of Precision Nutrition

10. Be flexible about your diet; it should change depending on your mood, cravings, and environment.

Twitter: @ManilaConyos

My advice to each person is this: Eating should be flexible. It will vary depending on your hunger, fullness, cravings, access to food, mood, and environment. There is no "one size fits all" meal plan.

The science is clear: Restrictive eating plans do not work and eventually lead to weight cycling, binge eating, and lower metabolic rates.

Aaron Flores, RDN, California-based nutritionist specializing in intuitive eating and Health at Every Size (HAES)

11. Keep a food log for one week.

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This will provide insight that allows you to make targeted tweaks to your diet that will have a huge impact on how you feel and ultimately your health. You will really understand the effects of your food choices on your body. Does cheese make you gassy? Does sugar make you sleepy? Does oatmeal leave you hungry in 30 minutes? Do you eat out every meal? You can also learn interesting things about your metabolism, like what time of day you're most hungry, and if you're eating the majority of your calories after 9 p.m.

—Danielle Omar, integrative dietitian inspiring you to get Fearless in the Kitchen

12. Add more lean protein to your life (and daily routine).

@agirleatingbakersfield / Via instagram.com

Make it a habit to eat more lean protein with each meal and snack, instead of just starchy carbs. A few good examples of lean protein are hardboiled eggs, deli turkey slices, chicken, beans, and legumes.

Katie Yip, New York City–based Pilates teacher

13. Trust that the ups and downs of trying to be healthier will result in balance.

Casey Gueren / Via buzzfeed.com

If you're making healthy habits a part of your everyday lifestyle, you'll have ups and downs — weeks where you might eat healthier than others — but they will balance themselves out naturally, something I call the squiggly line effect. Listen to your body — it will tell you what it needs to thrive.

—Kath Younger, RD, founder of Kath Eats Real Food

14. Add probiotic-rich foods (sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, yogurt) to your meals.

@caliqt88 / Via instagram.com

Probiotics generally have a sour flavor that can add that special umami-like taste to your foods. Top your salads with kimchi or sauerkraut. Stir some miso paste into your veg sauté.

Your gut is the center of the universe when it comes to your health. Probiotics replace and replenish beneficial bacteria that already live in your gut. Think beyond dairy. There are plenty of probiotics out there besides yogurt — like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh — that can make your gut happy.

Rachel Beller, RDN, celebrity nutritionist and founder of Beller Nutritional Institute

15. Learn how to eat according to your hunger, not according to external food rules.

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Most people focus on external cues — like calories, diet rules, or portion sizes — in order to know how much to eat, but then they don’t end up feeling their best because they ate less or more than their body really wanted.

Internal cues feel different for everyone, and you have to tune in to discover what "a little hungry" feels like for you, versus what "very hungry" feels like. This helps you tell the subtle difference between "still hungry" and "mostly full," for example. What does thirsty feel like? What does tired feel like?

To get to your unique cues, I recommend jotting down notes about appetite and energy levels as you experiment, using as specific language as possible. Do this exercise for every sensation, at various points: very hungry, a little hungry, very thirsty, a little thirsty…and for things like fatigued, sleepy, energized, turned on, etc.

Cultivate the skill of listening to your body's subtle internal cues and you’ll always get exactly what — and how much — you need to feel your best!

Jessi Kneeland, health and empowerment coach

16. Eat more fiber.

@malinloye / Via instagram.com

The average American consumes about 8–10 grams of fiber daily. Want to know the recommendation? It's 25–35 grams daily!

Fiber is satiating, which means it can help people lose weight. Fiber is also known to reduce cholesterol and maintain blood glucose control. Some examples of fiber-containing snacks include pears, chia seed pudding, or granola bars that contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.

—Nita Sharda, RD, owner of Carrots and Cake Balanced Nutrition Consulting

17. Consciously uncouple from self-criticism. And really try to practice self-compassion.

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Research shows that self-compassion leads us to wiser, more grown-up, kinder choices for ourselves. Rather counterintuitively, it also helps us perform better (whether athletically or in life).

Self-criticism is walking around with an asshole in your head all the time who grinds you down, sucks your energy, and makes you perform worse. Telling this asshole to STFU and being kinder to yourself (by, for example, instead of getting mad at yourself for a "slip-up," trying to congratulate yourself for the effort you're making no matter how every little thing turns out) will help you be more resilient, perform better, and bounce back quicker from any setbacks or mistakes.

—Krista Scott-Dixon, director of education at Precision Nutrition

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